Years ago, when I was about 12 years old, my family was running late, on its way to my brother’s graduation ceremony in NH. My father was driving when a police car pulled us over. My dad set the tone for those of us in the car by asking us not to say anything – to let him do the talking. I knew we had been speeding, and I was pretty sure my dad would try to minimize that fact when the officer asked about it. However, my dad did not. I gained enormous respect for him as he admitted to the officer how fast we had been going, knowing full well that the lower speed limit was clearly posted.
I’m pointing this out, not to boast about an honest father but to say how his unintended lesson stuck with me. He had often exhorted us kids to be honest, and continued to do so in the years to come, but none of those lessons had anywhere near the staying power as did that one on that NH highway.
As Western Christians, we mature in the faith from many different directions. Even salvation itself seems to evolve. It grows from decision to accept Christ to decisions to practice discipline.Worship, study, prayer, meditation, etc., help us become more capable of discerning God’s call on us as we give of ourselves in service, sometimes secret service. Ray Vander Laan, a gifted teacher helps us understand in his very animated and well-informed style that God’s overall mission is to reconcile and restore His creation – all people throughout the world – to Him and to the life for which He created them. Ray’s video series tout convincing Scriptural evidence of God’s plan, starting on Mount Sinai, expected the people of Israel to bring light into a dark world by demonstrating God’s love for the lost. Jesus was similarly introduced (Luke, chapter 1) as bringing light into a dark world. It follows even today that those who follow Jesus and his message will similarly see God’s mission as bringing light into an imperfect and needy world.
We group, we grow, we give, we go.
The “group” step is critical because, like the task of buttoning a shirt, if the top button isn’t in the right button hole, the rest of the buttons don’t have much of a chance to line up well. In community, we learn values like simplicity, patience, sharing, and the more complete meaning of peace (shalom). We catch the higher vision of letting go of the shallow surface, the material and other competitive values of out culture, growing instead into unselfish, unhurried, generous people who trust in God. We need each other. As we learn to forgive, accept and support each other we demonstrate to an anxious world what applied light of Christ looks like. We become skillful at being who we are, as opposed to being who our culture tries to make us. We admit failure when we fail. We give more than we take. We see our roles as stewards more than owners. We slow down and listen to opposing positions to resolve conflict by consensus as opposed to a method of lobbying to gain majority vote. The idea is to give to others unconditionally, unselfishly motivated without a desire for payback or applause. Over time, folks who are watching, and who may be struggling in a darkness from this troubled world, will get an accurate view of what God can do.
This is not work for one or two ‘heroes’. This work is a community call. In community, burdens are shared, reducing negative impact and joys are shared and hence multiplied. Community brings the safety, support, collective experience and creativity of all, to all, and is therefore more effective. The complete Body of Christ needs the eye, the hand, the feet and all the types of giftedness given to people to show that the light of Christ really has come into the world.